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Francis Howell girls cagers refocus to claim Marquette Tournament championship

The Francis Howell girls basketball team celebrates after winning the Marquette Tournament Championship on Nov. 30 at Marquette High School.  [Michael Muench photo]

A 51-30 season-opening loss at perennial state power Jefferson City, forced the Francis Howell girls basketball team to take a hard look at themselves and refocus quickly.

That reset took hold last weekend as the Vikings dispatched Webster Groves 50-40 to win the Marquette Tournament championship at Marquette High in Chesterfield on Nov. 30.

“It was a good bounce back for us to win there after losing to Jefferson City in the first game,” Howell coach Morgan Muench said. “The Jefferson City game was a wake-up call for the girls and I think it really opened their eyes to what they need to do to play well against teams like them.”

Howell, which entered the tournament as the seventh-seed in the eight team tournament began their bounce back in earnest by grinding out a 52-46 win against host Marquette in the first game on Nov. 28. Two days later, the Vikings knocked off GAC South conference rival Fort Zumwalt West 45-38.

“We really refocused on playing better defense and rebounding and hustling for loose balls,” Muench said.

Next, came the championship game against Webster. In an up and down affair, the Vikings were able to overcome a deficit and take a 38-33 lead heading into the fourth quarter.

In the fourth quarter, the Vikings turned up their man-to-man defense, scrapped for loose balls and cleared the boards for rebounds, holding the Statesmen to just seven points in the final stanza.

“They really did a good job of playing defense and taking good shots against them,” Muench said.

Howell’s talented senior trio of Taylor Russell, Jane Thompson and Micah Huwe powered the Vikings championship finish. Huwe and Russell scored 17 points each. Thompson added 12.

The Viking’s triplets have quickly become a matchup nightmare for opposing teams with their scoring prowess and relentless defense.

“We all have the ability to score and play really good defense so it’s tough for teams to deal with us,” Huwe said. “If you focus on one inside, we can beat you outside. It’s tough for teams to cover the three of us.”

Huwe also pointed out the trio has a long history of playing together that gives them great chemistry on the floor.

“All three of us have been playing together since grade school, so we know each other really well and have great communication together on the floor,” Huwe said.

Another key to the Vikings solid early start has been the steady play of senior forward Olivia Lashley, whose intensity for defense and hustle for rebounds has been a unifying force for the Vikings.

“Olivia has really been a glue-type of player for us,” Muench said. “She has tremendous defensive intensity and hustle, gets on the floor for loose balls and provides energy.”

Howell believes it is in a position to get on a roll heading into the new year.

“I feel like if we continue to practice the way we have of late and carry that into games and execute then we definitely have a chance to get on a good roll,” Huwe said.

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